October 30, 2003


Remaking the World: Bush and the Neoconservatives: a review of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy by Ivo H. Daalder & James M. Lindsay (Joshua Micah Marshall, November/December 2003, Foreign Affairs)

Their emphasis on the president is no accident. According to the authors, Bush was no figurehead or pawn in the revolution that bears his name, but rather the key decision-maker. "Bush," they write, may not have spent any time consciously trying to develop a philosophy about foreign affairs. However, a lifetime of experience had left deeply formed beliefs -- instincts might be more precise -- about how the world works and, just as important, how it does not. ... The fact that Bush could not translate his gut instincts into a form that would please political science Ph.D.s really did not matter.

The book's central argument is simple and, by now, familiar: the president's unilateralist policies have produced quick victories in Afghanistan and Iraq but have also fractured the nation's alliances, and as a result the world system is more chaotic and unfriendly, and the United States is less secure. Daalder and Lindsay are concerned about more than the truculent face the administration sometimes shows abroad. "The deeper problem," they write in the book's concluding chapter, is that "the fundamental premise of the Bush revolution -- that America's security rested on an America unbound -- was profoundly mistaken." [...]

Another abiding characteristic of the administration's foreign policy, Daalder and Lindsay note, has been its belief that forceful U.S. leadership would cow the United States' enemies and bring wavering friends into line. Handwringing or grumbling from allies, the Bush team believed, stemmed not from too much American direction, but from too little. Vice President Dick Cheney summarized this view just before the outbreak of the Iraq war, when he told NBC's Tim Russert that he had no doubt that in the long run, after Saddam had been overthrown, "a good part of the world, especially our allies, will come around to our way of thinking." Readers can judge for themselves to what extent this prediction has been borne out.

We'll gladly concede Mr. Marshall's points that Saddam was not as well armed as the West had believed and that Iraq's Sunni seem to prefer power to freedom, but on the other points he seems--and presumably the authors are-- quite wrong. First the only genuine allies we have--the other members of the Anglosphere except for the one run by a Frenchman--were on board for the war, and other allies look to be getting involved in Iraq about as quickly as could be expected. The war did, of course, demonstrate fairly conclusively what has been obvious to the Right for over two hundred years: the French are an enemy, not a friend. So the division with the EU served a good purpose. But the key point they seem to have missed is that post-9/11 much of the Islamic world is engaging in attempts, however tentative, to reform itself. The most extravagant of the neocon claims would appear to be coming to fruition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2003 4:41 AM

Again it seems to be a case where they refuse to believe that anyone means what they say.

Should the Islamic world reform itself they will squeal that "It would have happened without going to war with Iraq!! See! See! We were right! The war was unnecessary!!!"

It's as if they have a strong filter between their ears and their brains that keeps them from understanding logic when it is spoken and written clearly and in terms they should be able to comprehend.

Posted by: NKR at October 30, 2003 10:31 AM

At one time, really good journals (and one would have counted Foreign Affairs in that camp) presumably asked people with noted academic expertise or distinguished records of public service in an area to comment on their subjects. Now, a degree in early American history and a website are apparently plenty training to comment authoritatively on foreign affairs. I realize it's just a book review, and that yes, Mr. Marshall is more than capable of writing an interesting book review, but I'm left wondering why I should consider his views on foreign affairs more seriously than, say, someone with training or experience in the area. *shrug*

Posted by: kevin whited at October 30, 2003 12:09 PM

America's security DOES rest on an America "unbound".

There were two ways that America could have gone, after the Cold War: The way of post-WW II disarmament, or British Empire style world domination.
If the Islamic fundamentalist movement had peaked later, in say, two decades, the former would have been more likely. However, it's now the latter that seems likely.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 30, 2003 8:59 PM


We've already largely disarmed--with military spending at 4% GDP. And the public's patience with the war on terror seems unlikely to last another year. We'll be a big power with some very deadly weapons, but not much else in the way of military throw weight. What will make us formidable in the future, as it has in the past, is our ideas. Islamicism can't withstand them.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2003 10:49 PM

The difficulty with fighting a "major" war today is that probably 15% or more of the population is going to oppose it, no matter what. And that percentage includes much of the media. Unless the NYT or CNN HQ gets bombed, that isn't going to change.

The pacifists who opposed WWI and WWII were an extremely tiny group, and were not hell-bent on bringing down authority the way the hard left is now. While that attitude may make it easier for the center-right to win elections, it makes it harder to prosecute a war. The case of the Army officer (has he been arrested?) who apparently fired off a few rounds to scare an Iraqi detainee is a result of this foolishness.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2003 12:23 AM


Republicans won a working majority in Congress in 1942 when FDR portrayed them--fairly or not--as opposed to war with Germany. There may never have been a majority in favor of the war in Europe.

Posted by: OJ at October 31, 2003 7:29 AM

But once it started, there was no doubt that it would be fought hard and to the end. Today the body politic is ingrained against that sort of finality.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 31, 2003 11:05 PM


It ended with the USSR occupying most of the territory the Nazis had held. That was the end?

Posted by: oj at November 1, 2003 6:23 AM

OJ -- Your statements can only be accepted with considerable qualifications. To begin with, the killings of Jews were not "fairly few". It is true that they were sporadic. But when a movement started within a Christian country that called for a general slaughter of Jews, the casualties were appalling (e.g., the Crusades, the pogroms in Russia, etc.). It was only after the Thirty Years War, who led to the decline of the dominance of the church in political affairs, that Jews became relatively safe.

Second, how much Christianity "dimmed" in Nazi Germany is open to debate. (This is less of an issue in Soviet Russia, when Christianity of any form was officially proscribed.) Hitler may or may not have been an atheist -- the evidence is conflicting -- but his followers were not; for the most part they were believing Christians. Specifically, they were Lutherans, and it requires no great penetration to connect Luther's anti-Semitic screeds to the enthusiasm with which the Germans participated in the mass slaughter. Of course that isn't the entire story -- the Swedes and Danes who smuggled the Danish Jews to safety were Lutherans too. But in Germany the churches for the most part were accessories after the fact.

Christ was quite correct in saying that how the adherents of religion behave towards others -- especially towards others who do not share your creed -- is the litmus test of any religion. Regrettably, as far as the treatment of Jews is concerned, Christianity flunked its own test.

Posted by: Josh Silverman at November 1, 2003 7:44 PM


I'd not accept any of those qualifications. The Crusades were merely an attempt to control the Holy Lands which the three great monotheisms claim and Christian behavior was comparable to that of Jews and Muslims in the same region over the past centuries.

The bit about Hitler and the Nazis being Christians is utter nonsense of the Goldhagen/Carroll variety. It's as anti-Christian in its way as the Nazis' slanders were anti-Semitic. The endurance of sizable Jewish communities in Russia and Poland and elsewhere well into the 20th Century seems at odds with the idea that pogroms were particularly exterminationist, even if we accept the odd notion that they were a function of Christianity.

Over the long course of history it seems entirely fair to say that it was safer and more comfortable to be a Jew in a Christian nation than it has been to be an Arab in Palestine. That doesn't excuse persecution of Jews but such persecutions are just as understandable as the repression of Palestinians. Nations and peoples have the right to organize their societies and defend their ideals against those who don't conform.

Posted by: OJ at November 1, 2003 8:56 PM


I agree that it's Western ideas, and American in particular, that make the US so formidible.
However, I disagree about the probable size of the US military in coming decades. For one thing, I think that an increasing number of remote or robotic weapons systems will be used, which will allow for static might, with reduced headcount.
Further, defense spending could credibly be .5% of GDP, if all we wanted to do was protect US shores.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 2, 2003 7:43 AM


So you agree we'll have a much smaller military. We'll depend more on killing with technology.

Posted by: oj at November 2, 2003 8:19 AM